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Nothing new under Obama

August 9, 2009 - Jim Anderson
Is President Obama punking us?

That’s the question New York Times writer Frank Rich asks in his Sunday column.

Rich cites evidence that the "change we can believe in" doesn’t amount to much, that the American game remains rigged. In other words, powerful lobbyists and the wealthiest few still run the place.

Disorder at congressional town hall meetings aside, there are many reasons to suspect that health care “reform” will keep the status quo entrenched. Here’s just one example: Obama once cited a doctor-owned hospital in McAllen, Tex., as a symbol of runaway medical costs after it was profiled in The New Yorker this spring. (Excessive treatment runs up costs — and profits — according to the analysis.) The same hospital, Rich reports, has donated nearly $500,000 to the Democratic Senate Campaign Committee.

Then there’s Billy Tauzin, a former Blue Dog Democrat (and later Republican) from Louisiana. Tauzin left Congress and became chief of PhRMA, the biggest pharmaceutical trade group.

“In the 2008 campaign, Obama ran a television ad pillorying Tauzin for his role in preventing Medicare from negotiating for lower drug prices,” Rich writes. “Last week The Los Angeles Times reported — and The New York Times confirmed — that Tauzin, an active player in White House health care negotiations, had secured a behind-closed-doors flip-flop, enlisting the administration to push for continued protection of drug prices.”

Obama’s economic team, meanwhile, is largely an old boys’ Wall Street club. With so many Americans on the brink, we’ve quickly taken care of the kingpins.

Rich notes that nine of the nation’s bailed-out banks — which in total received $175 billion of taxpayers’ money, but as yet have repaid only $50 billion — are awarding a total of $32.6 billion in bonuses for 2009.

Same old, same old. We could go on and on.

And Republican leaders, Rich says, don’t get it.

“It’s a measure of how out of touch G.O.P. leaders like Mitch McConnell and John Boehner are that they keep trying to scare voters by calling Obama a socialist,” he writes. “They have it backward. The larger fear is that Obama might be just another corporatist, punking voters much as the Republicans do when they claim to be all for the common guy.”

The president, of course, has been in office less than seven months. And the hand he was dealt was hardly a gem.

But as for “change,” Americans have reason to wonder where.


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